MELVERN — A five-percent cut to education statewide may be temporarily off the table, but there is more than one way Marais des Cygnes Valley schools could see a cut of $100,000 or more in the coming year.
“We’re going to talk about cuts for this year, school finance formula, and statewide,” Ted Hessong, USD 456 superintended said at the board of education meeting Monday in Melvern. “Don’t panic. We just want to put it out there, so we’re not overly surprised if something does happen.”
Hessong said a Senate proposal to cut five percent from K-12 education didn’t make it to the floor.
“It was shot down, it didn’t have enough votes,” Hessong said. “That would have been $106,000 for us. It didn’t pass.”
A second bill with stronger support originated in the House, and did not include a cut to schools.
“The democrats and freshman republicans are working hard not to cut schools,” he said.
A proposed change to school funding could hit the district harder.
“It’s very similar to the funding we had before the block grants,” Hessong said. “But, that’s going to a formula isn’t going to benefit our district in any way, shape or form. We’ve had a decrease (in enrollment) since the block grants came in, even before the block grants.”
Hessong said the cut to the district, based on 216 full-time enrollment, would be $196,000. USD 456 would be one of 28 districts, roughly 10 percent of the state, that would see decreased funding. Much of the state would see greater funding.
“To fully fund this formula, the government is going to have to come up with $280 million more dollars,” Hessong said.
He said if the district did face such a cut, he would ask all of the staff to help with the process.
“We’re going to include everybody in the conversation,” Hessong said. “We’re going to ask them their top five things to keep, and the bottom three that have to go. We’ll take that list, get some rankings. We’ll come to the board with recommendations on how we can look at the cuts. You’ll be the ones that have to pull the trigger.”
Hessong updated the board on recent trip by Lakes Region superintendents to tour special education programs in Pittsburg area.
“All the services are being taken care of through the interlocal with their staff,” Hessong said. “It allows teachers to focus on the kids that are there.”
The process groups students with similar abilities together, rather than having the teachers and paraeducators come to them.
“It opened up the superintendent’s eyes to what Three Lakes (Education Cooperative) could be,” Hessong said.
“I think for some of our kids who have very high needs, they’re going to get more when something is prepared for their needs, than with one teacher that’s trying to prepare for 12 different needs,” said Jamie Sowers, board member. “I think the benefits would outweigh not being in school all day.”
“I have mixed feelings,” said Twila Wollenberg, MdCV elementary principal. “I’d be a little concerned with our coop being so spread out, what the transportation would look like.”
Hessong noted the southeast Kansas interlocal group was equally spread out.
“It’s conversation we’re getting to with Three Lakes,” Hessong said. “We’re going to meet Friday and look at it more.”
The board members took a break in Monday’s meeting to take a tour of the recently completed greenhouse at MdCV High School. Danny Rice, USD 434 agriculture teacher, explained the heating, cooling and watering features of the greenhouse, it’s weather-resistant features and some of the projects already under way.
“It’s well equipped,” said Rice. “I’ve had an opportunity to talk to a lot of agriculture teachers across the state, and I feel real fortunate with what we have. For that I thank you.”
Rice said the program currently has two classes of 14 students. He said he expects half of those same students to take the program again next year. He also looks to expand the program to several outdoor garden beds as well, as well as allow other programs to use the facility in the future.
“After this year, maybe next year, we’re going to open it up to junior high science and biology,” Rice said.
Rice said the program also plans to sell plants, and will conduct a survey to gage community demand later this year.
In other business, the board:
• discussed leaks in the steam pipes at high school.
“They were leaking steam out and keeping it very humid,” Hessong said. “It was pretty steamy in there.”
Hessong said it’s been an ongoing problem, noting discussion with the employee from Modern Air.
“He’s recommended we have a engineer come in here to look at it,” Hessong said.
“He said he’s doesn’t think it’s going to hold.” Said Michelle Shultze, MdCV junior and high school principal. “He’s patched about as much as he can patch.”
• approved, by consensus, the district consider insurance bids from Kaw Valley, Rossville.
“We don’t have to pay anything unless we go to one of their people, it’s better than what we had,” Hessong said.
• approved new uniforms designs. The uniform purchase will be approved at a future meeting.